Dismissing hours of earlier public testimony that some City Council members characterized as misinformed, Spokane Valley’s council made what will likely be its final decision by approving tighter development in north Greenacres Tuesday.
In a 4 to 3 decision, Mayor Diana Wilhite cast the deciding vote in favor of 7,500-square-foot minimum lots in most of Greenacres.
The rancorous exchange between neighbors and the council on the new zoning has been ongoing for weeks. Crowded public hearings and comment sessions have been followed at later meetings by council deliberations on how small new residential lots should be and where the Valley’s traditionally larger lots will be preserved.
Following the council’s earlier decision to allow 7,500-square-foot minimum lots in most residential areas north of 16th Avenue, Councilman Rich Munson brought up the zoning in north Greenacres this week one last time.
Three years ago, the neighborhood successfully gathered signatures and raised $1,800 to rezone the formerly semirural area from roughly six houses per acre to about four per acre, which Munson said deserved further discussion. The City Council had approved the neighbors’ request.
“I define that as going back on your word,” said Councilman Bill Gothmann, who served on the Planning Commission at the time of the rezone.
The heated discussion that followed split the council, with councilmen Steve Taylor, Dick Denenny and Mike DeVleming arguing that the change was temporary because the city had not yet adopted its comprehensive plan.
The difference between the minimum lot size requested by neighbors – 10,000 square feet, or about four houses per acre – compared to the proposed zoning was minimal in light of the additional costs associated with them, Denenny said.
“We’re going to 4.9 (houses per acre) for goodness sakes,” he said.
Taylor said he was offended by Gothmann’s comment.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what to expect from the public process,” Taylor said, elaborating that just because the council doesn’t adopt the demands of those who testify does not make them disenfranchised.
“We have a responsibility to the entire city as well, and I think we are acting appropriately on that,” said Taylor, a council veteran who also works as the government affairs director of the Spokane Homebuilders Association and the Spokane Association of Realtors.
Gothmann countered that people in the neighborhood thought it was permanent.
“The political cost of rezoning this is, to me, much, much higher than any possible benefit I can think of,” he said, particularly when the city goes to voters to approve new taxes.
Although Gothmann didn’t mention any specific projects, Spokane Valley is preparing to develop a city center, build a city hall and shore up it’s street fund, all of which will require at least some additional money that the city does not have.
Munson also questioned the political cost, saying that the neighborhood will have denser zoning anyway because of the city’s new rezone policies.
“Just leave it the way it is and let the process take care of itself,” he said.
Councilman Gary Schimmels disagreed that the rezone was temporary and sided with Gothmann and Munson.
“We do not want to change what we had promised earlier,” he said.
The council will formally adopt the development rules at its meeting Tuesday.